Today we’d like to introduce you to Tanya Gill.
Tanya, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I often joke that I had no other option but to be an artist. I found elementary school challenging, and Art is the place I excelled with ease. Maybe for this reason and for many others, I am one of those artists who declared at age five that I was going to be an artist. I have been faithful to this declaration throughout my journey, with the brief exception of wanting to be a vet at age twelve.
In pursuit of becoming an artist I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then later Cranbrook Academy of Art for my Masters in Fine Arts degree. From there I have attended art residencies, received supportive grants and exhibited my work. However, the opportunity that has had the most profound effect on my work was being a Nehru-Fulbright Fellow in 2012-13. Having married into an Indian family, I already lived between cultures and places. However, living in New Delhi full time fundamentally shifted my art practice. All my current work stems from observing myself adjusting, adapting and then finally merging with my new environment.
As many artists do, I have reframed what being an artist means for myself throughout my journey. At the moment it means to be acutely observant, to be precise, to ask questions, and to make.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My current body of work is about human adaptation on both a personal and social level, and as I mentioned the work came out of my own experiences living in New Delhi. Delhi is like all big cities: people from all over the world co-mingle there. I currently use the techniques of darning and paper inlay. These ways of working visually mimic and manifest our ability to adapt and yet remain whole. The old lives with the new, and a new existence are made.
Though my technique and materials have shifted, drawing and painting is at the core of my process. Another way to say this is that I ask myself the questions a painter asks when creating. What should the precise color be? How are colors interacting with each other? What is the figure/ground relationship? When I am in the process of making I am constantly questioning light, form, gesture, mark, surface etc. These are all the thoughts of a painter.
So, what does my work look like? In the Altered series I darn thread into unstretched found cloth. The un-stretched cloth reveals its rough edges, emphasizing the warp and weave of the cloth. The exposed edge gives a delicate feeling since the threads of the cloth can be pulled free. The darned shape is created with thread of a different color and is darned into the cloth where the shaped hole was. The different color and texture of the darned thread reveals its difference. But at the same time, it blends and is now a part of the cloth.
The darned forms take on the shape of houses. They come out of my long drives between Chandigarh and New Delhi, India, two places that are home to my family. During the drive along the Grand Trunk Road (a road that is thousands of years old) I draw the structures passing out the window. What I focus on are the structural forms that have been added onto an existing home. There are beautiful examples of these house extensions in Old Delhi, where you can visually see the families creating more room for their changing needs. It might be another level on a home for family members, a closed-in terrace, or a little structure on the top. They are both alterations to a physical structure and a family system. These structures are the inspiration for the shapes that are darned and inlayed in my work.
What do you hope people take away from it?
Most of my work can be described as subtle. One of the reasons I work this way is I strive to create a sense of quiet in my work. In the Altered series I expect viewers to bring their own experiences to the work. This is often a part of looking at work, memories and connections to things in our own lives arise. But at the same time, I hope the viewer can have a moment outside of themselves and leave the work with a sense of expanse.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
I think the biggest challenge artists face today is a challenge we all face: mental space. Between the demands of making ends meet, responsibilities, the fast-paced news cycle, remembering passwords and our always-on smart gadgets, it can be extremely difficult to set aside “just be” time. “Just be” time is crucial to the creative process. One needs a quiet head to reflect, think, read, and be with no pressures. It is challenging to schedule this time into the week, and then equally challenging to honor the time. But it is essential for us all.
Financial challenge of being an artist?
There is no getting around it, being an artist is financially challenging, and I have definitely had my lean spells. One of the reasons is that there is no one solution that fits all. Like everything in life there has to be a trial and error period to find the right fit for you. I have some friends who choose non-art related salaried jobs. They like having a clear difference between their art practice and their “other” job. For myself, it works best to have a creative minded job. I teach art, I help develop cultural programs with Eye on India here in Chicago, and in the past, I have worked full time painting murals for natural history museums. I have really enjoyed the exchange of ideas between my practice and all my other positions. My work with Eye on India has been a wonderful way to engage with the Chicago cultural community around ideas that deeply interest me. But as my answer suggests, it is helpful to have a salaried job at least at the beginning of your career. It helps you get through the financially lean times.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
The best place to start is my website: www.tanyagill.com. I post upcoming exhibitions there, and one can join my mailing list. I also maintain an Instagram account @tlh.gill.studio. There are a surprising number of Tanya Gills all over the world. This is why I included all my initials in my Instagram id. The L stands for Louise, and the H for Hastings. I post my work, works in progress, inspirations and announce upcoming exhibitions there as well.
Folks in Chicago will have a chance to see my work at The Other Art Fair in September. I am excited to be a part of The Other Art Fair’s premier in Chicago. The Other Art Fair is taking place at the Mana Contemporary the same weekend as CHICAGO Expo. I hope to see you there.
On how one can support local artists, look and engage. Show up at openings, follow artists who interest you, approach artists in conversation, and if moved by a work, purchase it! But mainly take a moment to pause and really look at the art work you are encountering. With the current state of image inundation that we live in, it can be habitual to simply glance at an art work. All art work is better in person, versus a digital image, and deserves a moment of your time to be seen.
- Website: www.TanyaGill.com
- Phone: 4153026281
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: tlh.gill.studio
Information on art work:
- Altered: Two, Thread darned into found cloth, 12.25 in x 9 in, 2017
- Altered: Red with Red, Thread darned into found cloth, 13 in x 7.75 in, 2018
- Altered: Black with Red, Thread darned into found cloth, 12.25 in x 8 in, 2018
- Altered: Together yet Apart, Thread darned into found cloth, 15 in x 11 in, 2018
- Altered: Warned, Thread darned into found cloth, 5.25 in x 11 in, 2018